Bishops have striven to keep their promise to protect children

National Catholic Reporter

Edward J. Burns | Jul. 31, 2015

As a bishop and as the chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, the editorial “Time to end pattern of deceit, denial” was profoundly painful to read, addressing as it did the betrayal of our children and of our people by some of my brother bishops. One of the particular graces of living the Christian life within the context of community is when brothers and sisters help us to recognize our errors and our sinful behavior so that we can begin to repent and seek God’s forgiveness and healing.

We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to the survivors of sexual abuse whose courageous witness has made the church safer by giving rise to an effective child and youth protection program. They remain a top priority, evidenced by the 294 people who came forward in 2014 to report abuse that happened in the past. The problems they faced 30 years ago are not the norm today. Last year, dioceses provided outreach and support to more than 1,700 victims/survivors.

It is also true that many bishops who returned from the bishops’ conference meeting in 1992 implemented the five protection principles adopted that year, a decade before the Dallas Charter. They called for victims to come forward for healing, removed priest abusers, cooperated with authorities, implemented safe environment training and were transparent with the public and the media.

Ten years later, the U.S. bishops approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and commissioned the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to do two unprecedented academic studies of this misconduct as it existed within the priesthood. They also created a National Review Board, a lay board to advise them specifically on the protection of children and they submit to an annual audit for compliance.

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